Archive for January, 2010

Reflections: Part 3, Right Where I Need to Be. The End.

January 25, 2010

I have an e-mail alert from The Chronicle of Higher Education that regularly sends me updates on open faculty positions. I don’t know why I keep this service, as the emails just remind me of both the positive and negative aspects of my experience in higher ed. Every time I see a job that looks interesting or one that is close to my family, I immediately start thinking, “I should apply to the job and see what happens.” Then I start to recoil from these thoughts and tell myself, “No, try this new life out, give it a chance and see where life and your art career goes.” These moments are sometimes difficult, other times it is easy to delete the e-mail.

I have more than myself to consider of course, and I have a lot a great things happening in my life at the moment. My wife and I were able to, unknowingly, set ourselves up well for this change. We have a small house with a low carbon imprint, and as a result smaller utilities bills than some households. While I was still employed, we were able to pay off some dept, and we purchased two reliable vehicles one of which is extremely efficient. In addition, we have small raised bed gardens in our backyard to help with our food budget.

Most importantly for me, I have the best studio that I have ever had. I converted a two car garage, which is insulated, rewired, warmed primarily by a pellet stove, has a kiln, and plenty of work space. I do have a habit of buying tools, as I am a tool head, and they have taken over some of the room, but hey “Tools are Cool” and useful. Nonetheless, I can walk out the back door and go to my studio and work when my other responsibilities are taken care of, or relieved by my spouse.

In addition, I have been putting blocks in place for my art career. The initial revamp of my website has been launched, with another update on the way. Being some what of a workaholic and impatient, I would like things to happen more quickly; however, I am also glad that I cannot impose my hast on new developments that might occur. I have noticed that with time, I often have a clearer idea about how to approach the future, and I am learning patience. I am grateful for the ability to reflect and study life’s nuances, and by doing so, hopefully, become a better person, spouse, father, and artist.

One of my favorite times during the holiday season when we see family, is sitting around late at night with my siblings catching up with each other. Sometimes we get into heated discussions about the state of affairs, but we also discuss what is happening in each others’ lives, play games. Most of all we just enjoy one another. This last holiday season, we were having a lively conversation — I won’t go into detail — but one of my brothers said “Gerard is no wimp, he has a hell of a lot of courage”. Upon reflection, I realized that this statement meant a tremendous amount to me. Now he might have been referring to some of the stupid things that I did in my youth, like hitchhike from New York to Kentucky in the dead of winter, but I believe he was referring to my entire being. Thanks Bro!

Anyway, the last eight months of my life have been both challenging and rewarding, and I look forward to the future. For now, I am right where I need to be, courageous or just plain stupid, it matters little. Regardless, I am glad to have the opportunity to be a stay-at-home dad/ artist.

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Reflections, Part 2: Whats Next?

January 23, 2010

You might be able to tell from my artwork and some of my writings that I tend to spend a lot of energy internalizing my thoughts, feelings, interests, and concerns. Therefore, the birth of my son, turning 40, and a career change to stay-at-home dad/artist, has resulted the reflection of my personal history.

As a result, I have noticed a decade trend in my life.

[Side Note: With the exception of first twenty years, that were like many lower middle class Caucasian American boys, filled with parental love, youthful exploration, frustrated teenage angst, societal influenced masculine anger and violence, and a whole lot of searching; I will leave it at that and spare the details for my autobiography, if it is worth writing, probably not!]

The Twenties
My twenties, like other Generation X’ers as we are often called, did not end my adolescence, however, they were the official beginning of my career as an artist.

[Side Note:  I say official because I grew up with crayons, blocks, Lego’s, wood, tools, and plenty of room to experiment with my natural surroundings such as fort making, sword fighting with brothers and friends, BMX bikes and bike building, pyrotechnics, fishing, hiking, rock and tree climbing, swimming, random unsupervised experimentation with a variety of materials, and the occasional private art lesson and art museum visits that mom and dad would provide for us.  My brothers and I had an interest in making and building objects. Which resulted in our developing problem solving skills at an early age.]

All of my male siblings eventually entered creative fields, I started mine when I went to College, where I fell in love with the ceramic arts, and a young women! The clay stuck with me, that particular woman did not. Without going into a whole lot of detail, I spent the next ten year of my life obsessed with clay, pottery, and finally sculptural artwork. During these ten years, I managed to graduate from Berea College, work in two different production potteries, attend and complete an MFA program, and very importantly, meet my spouse. In short, my twenties began what I hope to be my life’s work as an artist.

The Thirties
Soon after I graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with my MFA, I turned 30 and my wife and I moved to her graduate program. Luckily, I accepted a one semester visiting artist position teaching ceramics and 3D design at her graduate school thus beginning my teaching career. I spent three years teaching at four different college/universities with professorial positions as a visiting artist, and often living apart from my spouse.

Eventually, I was offered and accepted a tenure track position in the Midwest and for the next seven years I was able to improve my teaching skills, keep up a rigorous exhibition schedule, end my Gizmology series, start and complete the Synthohuman and Orphaned Teapot series, supply a gallery, purchase a house, covert a garage into a studio, and gain early promotion to Associate Professor of Art. Once I was tenured, I developed an extreme case of emotional exhaustion, disillusionment, and disappointment with higher education and humanity in general.

Then my son was born, and everything changed. My thirties ended, and my wife and I decided my resignation would be best for our family. A difficult decision to make, however, a decision that neither one of us has regretted thus far.

The Forties

So what will happen in the next decade? This year I turn 41, and I already know this decade of my life will speed along much faster than the previous four. I have also noticed, that as I age, time seems to quicken, I do not know if there is a quantum physics explanation for this phenomenon or not. However, I do know that intimately participating in a child’s life seems to increase the perception of times passage. Therefore, my immediate plan for the future is to devote much time to my son during the first few years of his life.

I will continue to make artwork and will have to begin developing various avenues for promoting my artwork and myself. I hope to establish an active workshop schedule and write grants. I will most likely continue to garden and preserve food, as this has significantly lowered the family’s food bill, and is probably the single most effective way that we have lowered our carbon imprint. I plan to continue my obsessive reading habit, and write blog posts among other things.

Artistically, I hope to draw and work more two dimensionally and continue sculpting. I do not know what is going to happen in the next ten years, but I hope to become a better and more self-sufficient artist and person, whatever that may be.

For information about my artwork or inquire about a workshop visit www.gerardferrari.com


Reflections, Part 1: Who am I?

January 22, 2010

Reflections, Part 1: Who am I?

I have been out of academia for one semester now and my colleagues who remain are beginning spring semester 2010. In the past eight months, I have been reflecting on my decision to resign as Associate Professor of Art. Of course, I will not be able to discuss within a few paragraphs every feeling, thought, and concern I have had since my resignation, nor would it be prudent for me to do so, after all this is a public blog. However, I do want to share a few of my thoughts on what is still a new development in my life.

These thoughts are best summed up by answers to the questions I am asked most frequently:

Do I miss academia?
Well yes and no, but at the moment mostly no. I do miss the magic that occurs within the collegiate studio/classroom. The experimentation and the exploration of a student’s artistic interests, needs, and motivation, that I believe I have a gift for encouraging and more importantly, helping students discover on their own. I miss various aspects of the collegiate atmosphere and communal intellectual development. I miss the professorial title, which had significant meaning for me, and for good and/or bad, holds significant influence in western society. Of course, I definitely miss the paycheck and the job security of the tenured university faculty member that I once was. The actual teaching was the most rewarding aspect of my professorial position.

I don’t miss the mechanics of the university that employed my expertise. Unfortunately, these institutional mechanisms seemed to be the most overbearing aspect of my position, and had I stayed the demands on my time and energy would have increased. Time that would conflict with family needs, the rearing of my young son, my wife, my artwork, and my wellbeing. All though the decision to leave academia has been an emotional, intellectual, and financial struggle; at the moment, I am grateful to be able to slowly recover the energy I lost and redirect it towards other aspects of my life — many thanks must go to my wife for this.

Would I like to return?
This question is harder to answer, because a lot depends on what happens in the future. I do miss teaching and the intellectual stimulation of academia, but I also enjoy having my mind free of the institutional requirements that come with the professorial position. So, time and future opportunities will help me answer this question.

So what is it that you do for a living?
Not much! I’m one of those stay-at-home dads, who spends numerous hours caring for his child, cooks dinner for his family, bakes, preserves food from the vegetable he grows, is a general handy man for the household, works most nights trying to establish his art career, and washes a whole lot of dishes and dirty diapers, as well as numerous every day odds and ends. Oh and by the way, my wife and I are trying to foster the beginnings of an intelligent, thoughtful, creative, and caring human being, all of which takes much time and consideration. Not much, but I love what I do!

I will say that this last question is the most disconcerting aspect of my current situation. I do not really have a good way to define myself in our segmented, career-oriented society; I do not have a “respected” way to define myself and answer the livelihood question, one of the most common ones that adults ask each other.

For information about my artwork or workshops visit my website at www.gerardferrari.com